Finally, someone is asking the right questions about The Pyramid.
Someone is stepping back to ask the “real” question about its future.
Someone is willing to consider that the two best ideas for the darkened arena may not just be the ones that coincidentally walked through the door.
Someone is willing to suggest that it’s not simply a choice between Plan A and Plan B.
Someone is willing to speak the truth: we are having the wrong conversation, and in doing so, we limit our own possibilities.
Someone is willing to consider that the land occupied by the project could be put to a higher and better use than remaining as a perpetual monument to our civic sense of unworthiness.
Amen And Amen
That someone seems to be City Councilman Shea Flinn, and all we can say in the wake of his questions about the proposed uses for the old arena is, “Amen.”
As Councilman Flinn said to The Commercial Appeal: “We need to see what else is out there, so we can test the market and see what the market says about it.”
Only to those fixed in their position and fixated on the building itself does this sound revolutionary. To the rest of us, it just sounds like good business.
An Iconic Failure
As he logically puts it up, when we couple The Pyramid site and Mud Island, we open up new possibilities that we may not even have imagined at this point. Heck, maybe there’s even a way that the land could be used for the best of all worlds – in a way that could draw on the Riverfront Development Corporation’s idea from a few years ago for new, high-quality development along the river and Friends for our Riverfront’s positions about green space.
If the site could become the answer to ending the kind of controversy that has nagged us for too long, The Pyramid could actually become a symbol of a growing maturity in its very absence.
The notion by some – notably The Commercial Appeal editor Chris Peck yesterday – that The Pyramid is an architectural signature for Memphis is on its best days simply ludicrous. On its worst days, it’s the kind of misguided thinking that got us in this mess to begin with.
Symbol For What?
Mr. Peck, who often seems to have a tenuous grip on what makes Memphis tick, sees The Pyramid as Memphis’ answer to the Eiffel Tower, the St. Louis Arch and other comparable city landmarks. But the truth is that those icons are reflective of those city’s ambitions, successes and aspirations.
The Pyramid is just the opposite – a constant reminder of the price we pay for low expectations, lack of ambition, lack of national standards for public investments and an Elvis-like tendency toward kitsch.
I guess that’s why the notion of demolishing The Pyramid has never upset us. To us, it’s never been an architectural gem – the design is too pedantic, the building materials too cut-rate and the setting too depressing – and because of it, The Pyramid stands as a symbol all right – our tendency to settle for cheapness in a world where successful cities are being defined by quality.
Mr. Peck’s clincher for his argument for The Pyramid is that there are 1,500 photos of the deserted arena on Flickr. We just couldn’t help but wonder how many photos will be taken if there’s a 50 x 60 foot leaping bass added to all four sides?
But maybe Mr. Peck’s instincts are right. There are 12,330 photos of Paris Hilton on Flickr, so maybe someone in City Hall should contact her for exclusive rights to her museum for her career, a Pyramid scheme if there ever was one.
As for us, we prefer to think that if we’re looking for the iconic symbol for Memphis, it’s the river, stupid. It’s still the most visited and most photographed site in our city, and frankly, we think the view is improved if the jarring presence of The Pyramid was gone for good.